I’ve spent most of today in what has become an off season ritual; chopping wood. This preparation at least two winters hence reminds me of triathlon, especially Ironman, where you need to plan ahead. Already I know all the races I plan to do next year. I have even entered all but one and I have most of my 2015 race scheduled pencilled in. On the one hand it’s a bit of a pain to have to enter so far in advance but on the other I enjoy the routine and rhythm this gives to my life. It certainly helps find coaching cover when I know my holidays plans a year ahead.
This is also the time of year when most of us reflect on the season and whether we met our goals. When it comes to “SMART” goals it’s been a pretty poor year. A sprained ankle put any defence of my Wimbleball Age Group title out of the question. Then getting freezing cold during the first two hours of Ironman Wales quashed thoughts of Kona qualification and finally major works starting on my house led to a very distracted final preparation for Ironman Florida resulting in the kybosh being put on my chasing a personal best there.
Fortunately, though I set some “SMART” goals I also have others. A goal that’s malleable enough to allow you to argue you achieved it. This one I achieved by enjoying all my racing.
A season review leads to goals for next season. Number one again is to enjoy my racing. After that it’s about resurrecting the goals I had for the year I turned 40. That season ended up a right off. Next year, aging up, I will try again: win my age group somewhere, qualify for Kona and get an Ironman PB. It’s good to make goals public; it gives some commitment and hopefully allows people to offer support.
It’s about this time each year when photos appear on various forums illustrating how bad the drafting is at Ironman Florida. I generally don’t take much notice as static photos tell you very little. I last competed in this race back in 2006 and didn’t see any particularly bad drafting. This year, however, was a completely different kettle of fish. I have never seen such blatant drafting. Being a quick swimmer I tend to spend a lot of time on my own on the bike and when groups pass it’s not so quick that I don’t get to observe them for quite some time. At Florida I saw numerous large groups come by with the majority riding in a formation you’d be chuffed with on the weekly club ride. I know this happens but I was shocked. Further back in the field you could see absolutely massive groups, two abreast. It would seem that if you have 3,000 competitors this is inevitable. However, up near the front where I saw these groups there was no excuse. There was plenty of room on the road for these groups to be riding a legal pace line and there are no hills that would get them bunched up.
So, whilst we’re all setting our goals how’s about the WTC setting themselves a goal for next year. Having focussed this year on trying to improve the swim starts by experimenting with different approaches (the corrals worked well at Florida), next year focus on trying different approaches to combat drafting. For me, the simplest way is to do what they did at Ironman UK in 2005 when I raced my first Ironman. Simply don’t issue penalties on the course, don’t even tell people they’ve got a penalty. Let them find out when they arrive in T2. If they happen to have got two drafting penalties their T2 bag will be removed as they’ve been DQ’d. I’m convinced that many of these cheaters are doing it on the basis that the 4 minutes they lose if they get caught is far out weighed by what they gain. They’re happy to risk this knowing they’ll get a second chance and at that point will ride legal. Without knowing whether they’ve been penalised then merely having a ref ride by will be sufficient to keep most people racing within the rules.
I remember knowing some city workers that wouldn’t buy a ticket for the train if they knew it wouldn’t be checked. It made me mad, you don’t buy a ticket because it’s going to be checked, you buy it because you’re taking the train. It’s the same here, you don’t not draft because you may get caught. You don’t draft because it’s cheating. I think a distinction needs to be made. There’s the case where you drift in to the draft zone, don’t make a pass quick enough or don’t drop back quick enough. This is part of racing and a penalty is appropriate for infringements. Blatantly sucking someone’s wheel for an extended period is cheating and if caught should be a disqualification.